Gina Schuh on Fire! Disabled Community: “Stand Up (for yourself) Lazy Ass”!


Gina Schuh on Fire!

Standing up for disability rights

You know what’s sad about the majority of the disabled community? We’re okay with the bottom of the barrel representation we get in congress with the bare minimum in benefits. We’re told to be grateful for the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Fair Housing Act (FHA) because we are “lucky” to have them. We shouldn’t criticize the fact the ADA has not been drastically revisited since 1990 or that the FHA offers next to no protection to people with disabilities in housing, especially apartment complexes. The mentality is to be grateful for whatever we get because when you’re disabled you’re a second-class citizen.

We don’t even know how to dream big. We need for the ADA and FHA to be amended to accurately represent the large population of disabled Americans and demand they be revisited to ensure they are protecting people with disabilities, not placate them. As I went through law school I was appalled at the lack of rights people with disabilities had, even after the ADA. People with disabilities aren’t even considered a protected class by the Supreme Court, our only protection is afforded by the ADA and barely at that.

It all starts with the lack of representation people with disabilities have in positions of power. Policies are created by able-bodied politicians who have no idea what being truly disabled entails, meanwhile, we’re told to be grateful we have anything at all. Ironically if we want to make changes we can because we have the voting power but we don’t and that’s the other problem.

We need to get off the sidelines and demand that our rights be enforced. We need to not be afraid to ask for change. In order to receive progress it is our obligation to educate and expose the able-bodied community to disability issues. It is up to us to ask for universal design, it is up to us to communicate our needs effectively, and it is up to us to follow through with ensuring we are heard.

Often disabled individuals begin with admirable advocacy efforts but are forced to stop due to health issues and life’s surprises in general. It’s understandable that our severe disability takes up our time, energy, and finances, therefore even our ability to advocate is disabled. That said, it’s that much more rewarding when you can achieve progress in the face of so many challenges.

Once we have the platform it’s our responsibility to be reasonable. We can’t roll in asking for gold wheels and the shirt off their back. We need to focus on what matters and that is access. We will make the biggest impact on the disabled community if housing, employment, and businesses were designed with people with disabilities in mind, specifically wheelchair users. We can’t go in threatening to sue everyone under the sun and we have to be willing to work with business owners.

Currently, the only method for enforcement of the ADA is through litigation which is drastically damaging the reputation of the disabled community and forcing others to forfeit enforcement. Some people are forced to forfeit enforcement because they live out of state or simply do not have the time or resources to follow suit. We are seen as litigious and that is because we have no other option than sue. We need to reevaluate how we deal with non-compliant businesses and examine more proactive methods of enforcement. The government created this law and they have washed their hands of it other than giving us the option to sue.

Someone with a disability has to face non-compliance before anything is done and that is unreasonable. Furthermore, it would be almost completely avoidable if they would do ADA Compliance inspections 1 year after opening. Cities do inspections at the time a business opens and they inspect the architecture only. Most non-compliance comes at a later date with things like high tops and decorative barriers, therefore it’s paramount that businesses be inspected after operating for a specific period of time.

It’s unreasonable to assume able-bodied individuals should know what our needs are. That is exactly why it’s imperative that people with disabilities get involved in advocacy, especially through establishing a presence in the political arena. Even being involved in the slightest way is better than not. We need to make changes through education, not litigation and be open to new ideas.

Progress begins as an idea, and if supported enough can bloom into a massive positive impact.

Editor’s Note:

Gina recently founded Accessible Arizona and will be joining the Roll on Capital Hill this June in Washington DC

How you can get Involved:

Disability Rights and Defense Fund
U.S. International Council on Disabilities
United Spinal
Rooted in Rightss
More: List of Disability Rights Organizations
And More: from USICD

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Gina Schuh, Editor, Law and Advocacy

Gina, a C-5/6 quadriplegic, describes herself as a “politically incorrect foodie who is an equal opportunity offender.” Beyond that, Gina is a law school graduate who grew up on a farm in California. Gina’s true passion is food, and you’ll often find her posting food pictures on her Instagram under Ginaisonaroll . Raised by a strong mother who had an insatiable appetite for any educational psychology materials, Gina swears she was raised by an unlicensed psychologist which led to her being so introspective. After people observed her success in dating, they asked for tips, which eventually led to her regular contribution here at Push Living on issues of dating, disability parking, and medical supply reimbursement, leading to the role of Editor of Law and Advocacy.

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